Matthew Byrne has an uncanny ability to make something old sound new again, or for that matter make something new sound old.
His new album Horizon Lines shows why he’s one of the province’s leading balladeers and a baritone you want to tell your mother about. And he likes a good pun.
Many of These Songs Were Tunes You’ve Known for Years. Why Record Them Now?
I’m not entirely sure. I’ve always kind of felt that if a song sticks with me forever, it’s telling me I should version it and do something with it. With some of these, I’d wrongfully dismissed them as the “ones I sang when I was little”… but then realized I still love them just as much as I ever did. There’s an honesty that comes through when you’re versioning a song that’s been dear to you for so many years … so I hope that comes across with many of these.
When Did You Realize You Wanted to be a Balladeer Instead of Fronting a Rock Band or High-octane Trad Band?
I’m a storyteller, first and foremost. All of these songs have a story both within them and behind them. The intimacy of a solo performance for a listening audience is really necessary for those stories and nuances to get across. I’m the guy who works better in the folk festival workshop than on the big main stage, without a doubt. I like seeing the people I sing to and feeling like I’m talking with them rather than at them. And I go to bed too early to be in a rock band.
What’s It Like to Record with Your Father?
It was a big checkmark on the bucket list … something I really wanted to do. It’s been a long time since Dad’s been in a studio, and the process has changed completely since he recorded in the early 80s. So he was happy to let myself and Billy (Sutton) guide it. He sang a song that he’s played many times so we didn’t complicate things … we wanted his arrangement and interpretation of it. I’m so thrilled to have it on the CD … it’s very special for both of us.
You Wrote the Tune “Adelaide” about a Gentleman Who Had a Brief but Life-altering Encounter with Your Aunt Many Years Ago. Did You Send the Song to the Gentleman?
That was actually something that myself and Billy talked about when we were recording it. I felt a bit strange having written a song about someone who had no idea I was doing so. Then Billy did some Googling and found an obituary … he died last November. That kind of freaked us out as his death was coincident with me taking interest in the story. It’s a bit sad that he couldn’t hear it.
What Is Next on the Horizon for Matthew Byrne? (Pun Intended)
Pun accepted! I’m bringing this album and these stories to as many places as I can. I’m gearing up for a cross-Canada release tour in September and October. And more touring in the US as well as some solo groundwork in the UK. Another Winter Island Tour with Sherman (including PEI this time around) and more exciting collaborations. Stay tuned!